The Little Big Things

BIG THINGS

Yesterday, the Southeast Church added 4 additional elders, bringing the total to 18.

The purpose for more elders is to have more shepherds to care for a flock of 1,100 sheep. Does it seem like 18 will be enough?

The service was beautiful. Prayers were led for the new elders and their spouses and families. Each new elder received a shepherd’s staff and a servant’s towel. Two reminders that they have been called to serve the needs of the flock.

SMALL THINGS

Throughout the morning, as we appointed the new shepherds in both services, I was approached by people, one at a time, asking for prayers.

  1. The First Request: a member told me she is taking in a family in need who will live in her home for some time. The request was that God’s peace, calm and understanding would fill their hearts in the days and months to come.
  2. The Second Request: a member came asking prayers for another family who is experiencing some difficult challenges. Their situation is known to me, I’m aware of what is happening. It’s hard and sad and needs prayer. 
  3. The Third Request: a member shared that her spouse has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disorder causing severe pain that will never go away.  

The prayer was written on a folded piece of paper and the request was that I place it in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall of the Temple. She knew  I was leaving for the Holy Land this week. 

Jerusalem's Wailing wall

I have stood and prayed there on several occasions. It’s a humbling place to pray, and if our feelings and emotions matter to God, and they do, then our Lord gives much attention to the prayers rising from the Wailing Wall. 

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I will place her prayer between two of the ancient limestone blocks along with thousands of others. We both know her prayer isn’t any more powerful in Jerusalem than it is in Houston. But I understand why she asked. I’ve left a few prayers of my own in that wall.

Western-wall-prayer

TO CLOSE

On a day when big things were happening, a day of anointing new elders, a day that made our church stronger, there were also small things happening, things that went unnoticed, things very private. 

However, I suppose in the Kingdom of God, there really aren’t any small things. 

Shalom

Careless, Clumsy, and Confused?

THE THREE C’s?

Those would be: careless, clumsy and confused, along with the three F’s: forgetful, fatigued, and falling. 

The three C’s and the three F’s pertain to getting older, to aging. I did’t notice it until I turned 62. Being 61 was fine, it seemed like 60 or 59. But 62, oh my goodness have I noticed.  

A Few of the C’s

  • Sometimes lose track of what day it is.
  • I’m bumping into things more than I used to.
  • It’s taking longer to get the caps off of bottles. 
  • My mind is giving me the word I need but I say something else.
  • Find myself not caring as much about some things.

A Few of the F’s

  • I sometimes can’t summon the name of people I know.
  • Sometimes can’t remember what day it is.
  • I go to a room to get something and when I get there can’t remember why.
  • I remind myself about something and half way down the driveway I remember. 
  • And then, there’s falling down the stairs. 

I realize that what I’ve said risks making me look like a doddering fool or a man drifting into senility. I’ll assure you that it’s neither. 

Most of the C’s and F’s only occasionally happen, and I’ve always done some of them, but now it seems to have increased a bit.

FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS?

You might have wondered about that one. Well, here’s what happened. We had a kitchen table and chairs that wasn’t being used and offered it to our son who gladly accepted. He lives in a 3rd floor apartment. 

So, it took a couple of trips to get everything up there, but we did, and we got it put together. So, as I was leaving and going down the stairs I accidently missed a step, lost my balance, and went crashing down onto the landing. I missed a step and wished I hadn’t. Bang goes the dynamite. 

My head crashed into the corner pillar of the landing and wrenched my neck. My left shoulder hit the railing attached to the pillar. My right ankle felt like it was sprained or broken. My left foot was in immediate pain and shooting up into the knee.

stairs 2
Not my sons’ apartment stairs, but close, really very close!

THE EXPERIENCE OF IT

  1. It happened in a blink and I couldn’t react fast enough to prevent it.
  2. I knew on the way down it was going to be bad. 
  3. I haven’t fallen like that since slipping on ice when I was 32.
  4. I had the presence of mind to think: “I hope no one is watching.” 
  5. Nothing broken, no major injuries, except to my pride: ouch. 

It’s got to be the aging? Right? This is my first time to fall down stairs and hope to never do it again. I’m not clumsy or careless. As least I didn’t use to be. However, I have twice crashed through the ceiling from up in the attic, but that happened back in my 50’s. 

I’m fine, a little sore and banged up, but fine. If the fall had been recorded I could submit it to America”s Funniest Videos, I bet I’d win. 

I’m gearing up though. I turn 63 in May.

TO CLOSE

I’ve never been more productive in my work. My best life and best years are right now. I write a BLOG, have a VLOG, have published two books, working on the third, and I’m in my 10th year serving as Senior Minister for a great church. In a few weeks I’ll be leading a group to the Holy Land, my fifth trip to Israel.

You are as young as you feel. Age is just a number. Watch out for those stairs. 

Shalom

 

The Tale of Two Jasmines

NOT PEOPLE

A couple of years ago I bought two Carolina Jasmines from a high quality nursery. They were equals in size and vitality. I planted them in identical fashion with no variation, and no kidding, they were planted exactly the same, even the large pots were the same.

plantnursery
Nothing better than a high quality nursery for getting good quality plants!

OPTIMISM

 I chose the Carolina due to its hearty reputation. It’s impervious to summer heat, winter cold, and is easy to grow. They like containers and they seemed happy and well suited to their surroundings.  

Such was my optimism. 

REPORT CARD

Joyfully, one grew tall, full and prospered beyond expectations. It grows so rapidly that it demands pruning every few months. I could take a machete to it.

carolina-jasmine-plant-jasmine-false-carolina-jasmine-plant-care
Not my thriving Jasmine, but close, really very close.

Sadly, its twin hasn’t done as well. It has toiled, struggled and failed. Well, its grown from where it started but compared to her sister she’s produced a shameful result. 

deadplants
Not my struggling Jasmine, but you get the idea!

GIVING UP?

No, not giving up, not yet. I have fed and fertilized. I have pruned and carefully snipped the dead vines. I’ve given extra care to make sure it’s neither under or over watered. 

Is it making a comeback? I don’t know yet, but I’m hopeful. 

AND…?

The tale of two Jasmines has offered some insights:

  • There was no guarantee that each would be as the other.
  • Although identical when purchased, their appearances rapidly differed. 
  • I’ve been discouraged over the Jasmine that dared to be dull.
  • I could have been grateful for the one that’s prospered, but I didn’t.
  • It could be said that I’ve been a bit obsessed by the Jasmine plants.

THE SPIRITUAL

Jesus taught that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. But he wasn’t really talking about trees, he was talking about hearts, about us.

He once cursed a Fig tree for looking healthy but on closer inspection discovered it was barren, producing no fruit at all. Isn’t the value of a Fig tree the fruit it produces?

The Prophet Jonah complained bitterly about the heat. So, the Lord provided him with a shade tree. But Jonah was bitter about other things too, like the Assyrians, whom he hoped would be annihilated. It seemed that he cared more for the tree than he did for the people. So, he lost his tree and its shade. Jonah was obsessed with two things: Assyrian annihilation and a tree. Of the two, the tree was most important.

IN CLOSING 

  • Are we irritated with God about the “failed Jasmine’s” in our lives?
  • Do we think too much about how we look compared to someone else? 
  • Has bitterness seeped into our souls from the unfairness of it all?  
  • When we obsess over the superficial do we risk a barren, unfruitful heart? 
  • Is there risk for striving to look good on the outside but are ugly on the inside?

Isn’t the value of a good heart the good fruit it produces?

It’s The Tale of Two Jasmines 

Shalom 

Should Have Built It Like He Said

Day Seven: The Twelve Days of Christmas

INTRODUCTION

I once built a balsa-wood glider from scratch. My confidence was strong but my skills, well, not as much. With weak skills and poor results I approached my Dad for help, he was a pilot and an aviation expert. He advised me to rebuild the plane in ways I thought unnecessary, so, I didn’t. My plane didn’t glide, it just struggled to get off the ground.

I should have believed my father. 

16_73_14_father_and_son_modeling_toy_airplane_in_garage
Not me, or my dad, or my glider, but close, really very close. (not so much)

BELIEVING GOD

What the Father said about his Son, that he would be:

  1. born in Bethlehem.
  2. born to a virgin.
  3. called Emanuel.
  4. David’s heir.
  5. anointed with the Spirit.

He said he would be:

  1. despised
  2. abandoned
  3. denied
  4. betrayed
  5. pierced

Everything the Father said was true. Do we believe everything the Father says to us? Or, spiritually speaking, are we a plane struggling to get off the ground?

A favorite holiday movie is, “The Polar Express,” a film about kids and the true spirit of Christmas. There is a boy struggling to believe. But then, the Polar Express train eases into Santa’s Village. Later, Santa gives him the first gift of Christmas, a shiny silver bell with a clear beautiful sound, but a sound he couldn’t hear because he didn’t believe. But he soon finds his faith, and…

when he believed he could hear the bell.

IN A FEW DAYS

Millions will celebrate Christmas. With their fireplaces glowing and their stockings filled, wide eyed children will see their gifts under the trees. Within a couple of minutes they will sit knee deep in torn wrapping paper and ripped ribbons. It will be so much fun.

Millions will reflect on the birth of Christ, that Emanuel came, sent by his Father to one day be sacrificed. I’t’s what we needed, it’s why he came. Do we believe?

TO CLOSE

My balsa-wood glider, the 2nd one, looked great and flew like the wind, but not the first one. Nope, I had to start over and build it just like my father said. I should have believed. But hey, be of good cheer, because it’s never too late to start over. 

The Father sent his Son, Emanuel, the God who came near to help

Do you believe?

Merry Christmas

Life In Small Towns

Day Two: The Twelve Days of Christmas

INTRODUCTION

I like small towns; they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Life in a small town can be a blessing, an answer to prayer and a place to escape urban  noise, city crime, and high pressure.  However, they have little to offer in terms of their significance to the world.

Our town got excited when a stop light was installed. It wasn’t a light with red, yellow and green, just a blinking red light purposed to blink for eternity. But it was a big deal, as if our town had risen in status. Does a blinking traffic light qualify for a rise in status?

But, once in a while a small-town kid grows up to be a world-class athlete, a superstar entertainer, or even President. Every now and then an unknown town produces a well known celebrity.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE

Guess who came from a small town? It was Jesus! He grew up in the tiny village of  Nazareth in central Galilee. It was Mary and Joseph’s home town and a place that  never exceeded five hundred in population. It wasn’t prosperous, famous or exciting. Nobody gave Nazareth much thought. 

In fact, when Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth he asked,

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

JERUSALEM?

Wouldn’t Jerusalem have been a better choice? It hosted the Temple and the Sanhedrin. It was home for famous Rabbi’s and the city of prophets and kings. It makes sense to me that Jesus would be raised in Jerusalem. But he wasn’t.

No, our savior was a small-town boy who was destined for big-time things. 

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Not even close to what it was 2,000 years ago.

IN CLOSING

Nazareth wasn’t anything special, and yet, the world celebrates the Nazarene. Not because of where he was from, but because of who he became and for what he did. 

Jesus came for those in big important cities and for those in small unknown towns. He came for us all, he came for you.

I like small towns, they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Thank you Prince of Peace

Merry Christmas

Overcoming Depression, Part Two

INTRODUCTION

It’s a touchy subject and there are lots of opinions and misconceptions. For example, it’s not unusual to hear someone who has had a bad day say, “I feel depressed.” The word has become an umbrella for almost any emotional stress:

  • sadness
  • loneliness
  • disappointment 
  • grief
  • despair
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We get the blues and we get down, but it isn’t necessarily depression. 

In popular culture the word loses identity, so how do you know if you are clinically depressed? Well, there are medical and therapeutic professionals who specialize in the  treatment of depression. Please know that I am neither of those. But as it happens, my wife is a professional counselor and my daughter a practicing therapist. They have helped my understanding. And, I can read. 

NOTE: There was a time when church’s wanted ministers to counsel the members. Many of us had little or no training and were unqualified. We meant well but often waded in to waters over our heads. Today we refer to faith based mental health practitioners. 

CAUSES & SOURCES

Some of the causes of depression:

  • unrealized expectations
  • severe criticism 
  • memories
  • self-preoccupation 
  • cumulative effect from many causes

The encouraging news is that those with depression can get better, they can get help. My advice is to seek wellness with a holistic approach to body, mind, and spirit. But as a minister, I’ll limit my advice to the spiritual. Be sure to understand the following: 

If  you are suffering from depression, or think you are, please seek professional help.

men and women who have failed

THREE SPIRITUAL ENCOURAGEMENTS 

  1. Replace your self with your God. A healthy step is realizing that God loves you and wants to help. He isn’t a genie in a lamp, there are no wishes for making your life better. But you need to recognize that the Lord is on your side. He is larger than your suffering. You are not alone. Let God into your life and live in your heart.
  2. Replace your thoughts with God’s truth. Depression produces a negative state of mind, and is a destructive illness. You will want to tear yourself down, to denigrate yourself and constantly play in an endless loop a message of a guilt, failure, and blame. Those debilitating attitudes are not of God. His message for you is that you are loved, wanted, and have great value. Look to replace your destructive thoughts with his message of love. 
  3.  Replace your past with God’s future. When flat on your back in the pit of despair, there seems to be no way out and no way for life to be good again. You feel defeated and broken, with nothing to look forward to. But it isn’t true, it’s only true that you feel that way. You can’t relive or rewrite your past, but you don’t have let it define you. It’s what you choose to do each day that determines who you are. Your future is a reality that God has promised. You can trade your past with God’s future.

I’ll share with you that I’ve struggled with depression. It comes and goes. Sometimes my struggle is the crushing weight of life we all experience and sometimes it’s something for which I seek help. I’ve learned to recognize the triggers that push me towards depressive thoughts and have acquired techniques that help me avoid sinking into the pit. 

ManWalkingThroughDarkTunnel
We can get better, there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

THREE THOUGHTS

“You can look around and be distressed. You can look within and be depressed. Or you can look to him and be at rest.”

“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43

“In this world you will have many problems, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

TO CLOSE

In review, I realize how paltry these efforts, how insufficient my words, and what hubris to think a blog post could help overcome depression. I apologize for my inadequacy.

However, I encourage you to make good decisions. Remember, there is more to depression than the spiritual so seek healing of mind, body and spirit. Don’t suffer silently. Help is available. I got better and you can too. 

May God richly bless you as you seek his grace in your time of need. 

Shalom

Overcoming Loss, Part Two

INTRODUCTION

In Monday’s blog,  Overcoming Loss, Part One I mentioned losing my teddy bear Charlie. He would he never be replaced, but there were new things to look forward to. Can we look forward to new things when the losses are more significant? 

Loss is when we give our best effort and still lose. It’s about relationships broken by death or conflicts. Another kind is when we lose ourselves. 

ManWalkingThroughDarkTunnel
There are many kinds of loss, some more difficult than others.

THREE KINDS OF LOSS

1. LOSS OF PEOPLE

The toughest loss is losing someone: a dearly loved spouse, one of our kids, a heartbreaking divorce. 

Recovering is about the stages of recovery. There are five of them and it’s helpful to know about them, take a look:. https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

widow 2
The bride of three years or thirty, doesn’t matter, it all hurts.

Establishing a new normal will take time, even years, and the first will be the hardest. It’s hard because the person can never be replaced. But maybe there are other people to love and who love you. There may yet be something to look forward to.

2. LOSS OF SUBSTANCE

  1. Losing a job can feel like death. It’s not unusual for unemployed people to grieve as if someone has died. 
  2. Professionals say it takes one month of searching for every $10,000 earned. If you are tying to replace a $100,000 position then it could take a year to find it. That can be very discouraging and financially difficult. 
  3. The lost job will never be restored. But it wasn’t the only job, there may yet be a new position even better than the last one.

3. LOSS OF SELF

  1. Losing yourself is losing self-respect, dignity, even integrity and character. Those losses are hard to accept and challenging to repair. It’s because they come out of your soul and ripped from your heart. 
  2. Reclaiming yourself isn’t easy. You may want to consider professional assistance. But there is good news. Unlike the first two kinds of losses, the loss of self can be restored. You have heart, a soul and determination. You can get better! 

HOMEWORK 

Don’t give up on God. If you are angry with him then tell him about it and get work to get that relationship where it needs to be. He is a fine companion when we are hurting. 

god lending a hand
We all need a little help, especially when grieving. It’s better with God than without him.

 

Read/listen to good books. Find encouragement, helpful information and motivation. 

Establish a schedule and stick with it. Don’t binge Netflix eight hours a day. Determine  each day the time you will spend job searching. Maybe find some friends to have coffee with and socialize. Keep up the house and yard. Stay busy. Be productive. Pray. 

THINK ABOUT IT

After Jesus was resurrected the apostle Peter returned to Galilee to fish. Not for recreation but to resume his commercial fishing business. Fishing wasn’t his destiny, but until he figured that out he stayed busy and productive. 

A key difference between believers and unbelievers is this: believers hurt and grieve just like unbelievers, but people of faith have someone greater than themselves . I would rather grieve having the Holy Spirit in my life then grieve without him. 

TO CLOSE

Loss is a huge topic. I pray something I’ve written has been helpful. So, from a veteran of loss to those who may be starting:  

Don’t give up, keep looking for a better day, it will come.

Overcoming Loss, Part One

MY FIRST LOSS

My earliest memory of loss was Charlie. In moving back to the US after four years in England Charlie was mysteriously misplaced. That was the explanation, misplaced, I had doubts and to this day, I till do.  

Charlie was my teddybear and closest friend.

I was five years old, brokenhearted and crushed, and that’s not pulling on the knot too hard. But I soldiered on and let him go, mostly. 

teddy bear
Not me or my teddy bear, but close, really very close.

SOME LATER LOSSES 

Losses of greater proportion were in my future. I’ve known heart breaking, gut wrenching and mind numbing loss. I expect most of us have.

Some Of My Greater Losses:

  1. a stillborn child
  2. friends in fatal accidents
  3. death of family members 
  4. shattered relationships 

Losses That Were Not People

  1. a forced exit
  2. my self-respect 
  3. losing much when much was at stake 
  4. losing hope and accepting defeat 

THE HARDEST LOSSES

There is no greater loss than the one that rips your heart out, such as the sudden death of a loved spouse, the death of your child, or the gut wrenching pain of an unwanted divorce. 

men and women who have failed

Loss comes in all sizes, flavors, and stages of life. Loss comes to us all, there are no exemptions. It can so overwhelm us that we get lost in our losses. They defeat us, take away our joy, and hover over us like dark, low hanging clouds.

Will we defeat the debilitating effects of  loss or will they define us for life?

basement_series_sadness-500x332

In Part Two of, “Overcoming Loss,” I’ll address the above questions as best I can. I hope to  give encouragement and valuable suggestions laced with wisdom. 

But for now I’ll leave you with this quote from President Lyndon Johnson,

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Do you believe that? Does it work for you? Overcoming a lingering loss can seem a mountain to steep to climb. But there is hope. Don’t give up.

Look for Part Two on Wednesday morning. 

Overcoming Betrayal, Part Two

MOMENTS OF DEEP BETRAYAL

Her husband moved out to move in with someone else.

The long promised promotion was given to a lesser employee.

The investigator’s report revealed one affair after another. 

Discovering her best friend was the one who stabbed her in the back.

 

THE AFTERMATH OF BROKEN TRUST 

The pain of betrayal can be so damaging that the betrayed are unable to trust, or love, or move forward with their lives. 

broken-trust
Broken trust often results in broken lives.

THE BETRAYER 

  1. Blind sided you, you just didn’t see it coming.
  2. Was someone you believed would never hurt you. 
  3. Devastates marriages and destroys relationships.  
  4. Was intentionally reckless, leaving a trail of broken people. 

THE BETRAYED

  1. Can become obsessed with self-incrimination. 
  2. Are filled with bitterness and thoughts of revenge. 
  3. Are often unable to let go of the pain and embarrassment. 
  4. Sometimes retreats into a dark emotional place, and stays there.
Betrayal-4edde75f206fe
Is betrayal the worst cut of all? 

 

SOME THOUGHTS ON OVERCOMING BETRAYAL

THE LONG HAUL-the first step is to acknowledge that recovery will take time. Of course, it depends on the kind of betrayal, but for the worst kind, it may take a year, or two, or even longer. Deep betrayal is not unlike a death, causing grief and pain. Betrayal can also create deep anger and bitterness. It’s going to take some time to work through it so be patient. You are in for the long haul. 

CLARITY-recovery will include some introspection: “Why didn’t I see it coming?” or “How could I have trusted him?” and “Am I stupid, gullible, or blind?” Recovery wrestles with tough questions. You may discover that you’ve been naive or living in denial. If you have a history of relationships that end with you being ended, then gaining some emotional intelligence may be in order.

A HEART OF STONE-a stone heart isn’t healthy. Invulnerability only locks your pain inside. Never trusting again is a natural reaction, but it isn’t good. Be advised, you will likely experience a phase encouraging emotional withdrawal while seeking angry revenge, don’t let it consume you. Healthy forward progress isn’t found in closing your heart but in letting it open. It’s choosing a path that will lead to your best life. 

WISE SUPPORTnot walling yourself off means staying available for healthy support. Overcoming betrayal almost certainly requires assistance from others. Choose carefully. If you have family and friends that love and care for you then don’t let pride and embarrassment hold you back. We all need help now and then. Finding wise support is good and healthy. You may also need professional help. Find the support you need.

 

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Jesus was betrayed. He knew it was coming but I’m guessing it still hurt. How did Esau feel when his mother and brother stole their father’s blessing? Did King David’s affair with Bathsheba violate trust within his household? How did Moses feel when he found his brother and fellow Israelites engaged in pagan worship? 

Many of us know betrayal in its various and toxic forms. Perhaps this blog is being read by some who have done the betraying? 

TO CLOSE

A blog can’t address all the needs, questions and issues created by betrayal. But I hope it’s offered some encouragement and comfort to those living with its wounds. 

So, to those who have been betrayed, know that I am one of you, and I pray that God will bless you and be with you on your journey to overcome betrayal’s pain. 

Shalom

Overcoming Betrayal, Part One

AN INTRODUCTION

Betrayed or Betrayal

“to deliver by treachery or disloyalty”

“willingly and willfully violating a trust”

“to reveal or disclose a confidence”

Little else cuts as deep or hurts as much as betrayal. The nature of betrayal is to willfully fracture the trust extended from another. It fractures the respect within a marriage, friendship, or close association. 

Betrayal-4edde75f206fe
Is betrayal the worst cut of all?

BETRAYAL’S WORST CUTS

  1. Vows shattered by abuse, adultery, or abandonment.
  2. By making public a closely guarded intimacy of another.
  3. Being used, manipulated and then disregarded.
  4. Stabbed in the back by a friend, partner, or employer.
  5. Promises openly given but deviously broken. 

There are many kinds of betrayal, too many. 

THE PAIN OF IT

When betrayed we feel subdued and defeated. We feel used and abused. Broken people will often attempt to break us too, using betrayal to gain their victory. 

The pain runs deep because it is such a violating act. It’s an abuse of our respect and trust. It breaks our hearts and crushes our spirit. 

broken-trust

OVERCOMING BETRAYAL 

Moving past betrayal is hard because we are not only grieved, but often angry and vengeful. It’s not uncommon for betrayed people to entertain thoughts of revenge. The betrayed wants to hurt the betrayer. 

IN CLOSING

In Wednesday’s blog I’ll try to help those who have been betrayed. The answers aren’t found in getting even, but in letting go.

I’ll give examples and offer some hopefully helpful hints for recovery. I say, “Hints” because overcoming betrayal requires gentle and sensitive language; more of a scalpel than a broad sword. 

So, stay strong, hang in there, and don’t give up.